Longer School Days Affect Everyone
Consider All Opinions Before Enacting A Law
"School Officials Explore the Possibilities of Longer Day." That headline caught my attention as I expect it would most education support professionals (ESPs) and teachers.
While most school days average 6.5 hours, the article said that Maynard Academy in Cambridge, Massachusetts was experimenting with an 8-hour school day, one of only 10 states to do so.
The article stated that the National Education Association has no official opinion on extending school hours, though NEA would likely support the idea if, as in Massachusetts, teachers could choose whether to work the extra hours. Reg Weaver has said that teachers must be adequately compensated and have a say in setting the goals of any such effort.
Teachers and support staff should be given a choice as to whether or not they would want to work the extra hours of an extended school day. I think students too should have a say.
Students are at the mercy of legislators. I hope that policymakers and other adults involved will study every positive and negative aspect of an extended school day before making it a law. Listed below are six points to consider.
First, the cost. The extended schedule could cost on average $1,200 extra per student. Massachusetts is spending about $1,300 per student extra on its extended school day. The article also stated that a senior teacher could make up to $20,000 more per year for working the extended hours.
Second, No Child Left Behind. Schools that fail to meet annual asset goals in accordance with the federal law are labeled as needing improvement. Some remedy-steps may include offering classes to stimulate creativity that could only be accomplished with the extended school day.
Third, more teaching and learning time. I can see the possible benefits of the extended school day. I have often heard teachers and students alike wish for more time to work on projects. There never seems to be enough time for our science and art projects.
Fourth, teachers less rushed. But, how much is too much? Students in Japan are forced to attend long classes year-round and are physically punished if they don't perform. While Japan may be leading the world in industry and technology, they are also leading in the number of suicides among children and teenagers. Is that consequence worth the cost?
Fifth, 12-hour days for rural districts. Schools with extended hours operating today are all within cities where students travel only a few blocks to school. What about a rural setting. In my particular school an 8-hour school day would force most students to get up at 5:30 a.m., board a bus at 6:30 a.m., and arrive at school at 7:30 a.m. Then, put in eight hours of class, leave at about 4:00 p.m. and return home at 5:00 p.m. This would mean that the students would be putting in almost 12-hour days.
Sixth, parents. Some will love it, others will not. Enough said.
A seismic change such as an extended school day will affect everyone who exists within a school's stratosphere. The earth will shake. I think all sides need to be heard, including students.
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.
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